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A Significant Medical History

She calls them her Angels of Mercy and Anne Marie McKenzie has no idea how she would have coped without breast clinical nurse specialist nurses Lynne Stirling and Pauline McIlvain at the Beatson Oncology Centre.

"Lynne and Pauline have been so supportive. I was feeling pretty lousy a few weeks ago and they were really fantastic."

But they are just two of the many extraordinary people who have accompanied Anne Marie along the road on her journey with breast cancer.

"The Beatson is a lovely place. Of course, you'd rather not be there, but the staff support you all the way," she says. "I can phone them at any time and they have never let me down."

Anne Marie can't praise her surgeon, Mike Senior, enough. He is the one who did the breast reconstruction after her mastectomy at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

"Mike is fabulous. What a nice man," Anne smiles. "Even my husband and son couldn't rate him highly enough. He explained everything to them.

"I had my operation on December 21 and was in hospital at Christmas and he even came in to see how I was on Christmas Eve when he was out shopping with his wife. He also phoned on Christmas Day. It was a lovely touch."

There are so many other staff at the Royal she is grateful to, including Claire South and Diane Black, the breast reconstruction sisters at Ward 47/48.

"But from the cleaners to the auxiliaries, nurses and consultants, they are all fantastic."

"And then there's the staff at the Victoria Infirmary, particularly breast care nurse Rhona Garrett."

Anne Marie's cancer was picked up when she went for her first mammogram last November at the West of Scotland Breast Screening Service in Nelson Mandela Place in the City centre.

She was recalled to be told the mammogram had shown up a small lump in her left breast.

"My husband was very upset when we were told and the breast care nurse there, Maureen Graham, was so kind to me.

"Everyone has been so kind and understanding and they help you through it. Gone are the days when they just gave you the drugs and tell you to get on with it. They are all so very supportive."

Anne Marie, 51, a children's library assistant with South Lanarkshire Council, lives with her husband, Thomas, 53, a businessman, and student son, Christopher, 19, in Simshill.

From the start, she has taken a positive attitude to the cancer.

There was some doubt as to whether her right breast was also affected, but Anne Marie isn't one to sit brooding while she waited to find out whether she faced a mastectomy in one or both breasts.

She certainly had no intention of cancelling a shopping trip to New York and off she went.

"I actually felt very, very positive," she says. "I kept thinking they've found it' and the staff at Nelson Mandela Place were fantastic."

In the event, tests showed that the right breast was unaffected and she had her mastectomy and reconstruction on December 21.

"My first reaction was just get rid of the cancer.

"I was just glad they had caught it and I wanted to get it done and move on."

When she went back to the Victoria Infirmary at the beginning of January to get the results of the biopsy, she was told that although it hadn't spread to the lymph nodes, she had pre-invasive cancer and needed chemotherapy.

She is now on Tact 2 trials and is feeling well. She hopes her treatment will be completed by mid July.

Anne Marie has remained positive throughout the various tests, the operation and the chemotherapy.

"I am so glad I had the reconstruction done," she says.

"If you were to look at me right now, I look exactly as I always did," she says happily.

Anne Marie can even find something positive to say about losing her hair through the chemotherapy.

She laughs. "Everyone says how well I look. I have a short, blonde bob wig and every day, it looks as if I've just had my hair done."

And she adds: "We are all too busy slagging off the NHS and don't give praise where it is due. Certainly when I've been poorly, they have supported me. I couldn't have got through this without everyone. They encourage you and they are so helpful."


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Anne Marie with clinical nurse specialist Lynne Stirling

Anne Marie is receiving chemotherapy at the Beatson